Seattle’s funk pioneers

Wheedle’s Groove – H.O.E. (play)

Before Microsoft, Amazon, the Seattle Mariners, and The Seahawks, Seattle had a vibrant live music scene revolved around funk, jazz and soul music (think: Ray Charles). Most of these bands faded into the vaults of album obscurity, but a few, like Wheedle’s Groove, have been dusted off, remastered and reissued. Originally released in 1967, “H. O. E. ” is a window into the late sixties Seattle sound that sonically encapsulates all the groove based music of the time.

Wheedle’s Groove
“H.O.E.” (mp3)
from “Kearney Barton (iTunes Bonus Tracks Version)”
(Light In The Attic)

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Venus Gang Loves to Fly

Tight, groovy, and funky as the day is long, this 1978 number by Venus Gang is pure fun. No politics or controversy here,  just a phat, raw beat, and sexy female vocals about stars making love and loving to fly. Imagination takes care of the rest. Disco keyboard and rhythm section work a’la Quincy Jones, meets a dubby clubby vibe that anticipates more contemporary nightclub music, and gives some of today’s producers a bit of schooling, I’d have to say. Delicious track.

Venus Gang
“Love to Fly” (download mp3)
from “Galactic Soul”
(Mucho Gusto Records)
Venus Gang – “Love to Fly” (play)

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Eddie Floyd demands 100 percent Sweet Soul

Soul music legend Eddie Floyd has been singing, recording and touring for something like five decades, and the man shows no sign of letting up today. This classic recording of “Ninety-Nine and a Half” is pure molten gold. Probably best known for “Knock On Wood” – a song he co-wrote with Steve Cropper which was a hit in 1966 and subsequently covered by like a hundred major artists, some of whom also charted with it – Eddie Floyd is a real as real gets. This is a gr8 record you should have at the ready, to heat up those cold winter nights.

Eddie Floyd
“Ninety-Nine and a Half” (download mp3)
from “Sweet Soul”
“Ninety Nine and a Half” (play)

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Barkays go deep with “Holy Ghost”

Boo! Ok, one of the gr8est rhythm sections in the history of recorded music, rockin’ it heavy. Trick or treat? The answer is: both. Bust this and watch your ghouly guests go completely mad.

The Barkays
“Holy Ghost” (download mp3)
from “Greatest Hits”
“Holy Ghost” (play)

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Funky Soul Dancin’ with the Jive Turkeys

The Jive Turkeys – “B.A.”

There really should be a band called The Jive Turkeys. And there is, there is! And any band using that moniker should show a gr8 love for The Meters, Booker T. and the M.G.’s, and other long running funky rhythm sections who jazz it up with pop sensibilities and a certain mod flair. And they do, they do! These darlings are from Oxford, Ohio, they release their music on 7″ vinyl, they think you should “cop” their records, and well, I do too. Truly a labor of love, down to the Steve Cropper-esque guitar niblets, Leslie speaker churned organ riffs, Zigaboo inspired drumming and one of those bass players who just lives in the kick drum. Their music is available digitally too, in case your vintage Fisher-Price record player is on the fritz.

The Jive Turkeys
“B.A.” (mp3)
from “B.A. – Single”
(Colemine Records)

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Betty Davis way too hot to handle

Rediscovered in recent years through re-releases and bootlegs of her classic 1970’s records, Betty Davis’ amazing voice and incendiary vision blew away the walls between soul, funk, and rock. I’ve crowed about her in these pages before, but I think we need another dose of her exquisite musical medicine. The vocal on this song is an unrestrained outburst of passion that is physically affecting. This is the uncut, the real, the antidote to auto-tune. Take it away, Betty!

Betty Davis
“Is It Love Or Desire” (download mp3)
from “Is It Love or Desire”
(Light In The Attic)
“Is It Love Or Desire” (play)

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A Funky Love Letter from Melvin Van Peebles

Melvin Van Peebles – “Come on Write Me”

This is beyond cool. This is so way beyond cool I can’t say much about it. Words are trivialized before the over-arching way very damn wow cool of this. Melvin Van Peebles – painter, actor, recording artist, star of big screen little screen and purty much everything else – lays it down funky and I mean funky. I might just hafta write a letter now. With a pen. Remember pens? This is some happy, gr8 music. Enjoy.

Melvin Van Peebles
“Come on Write Me” (mp3)
from “Confessionofa Ex-Doofus-Itchyfooted Mutha”

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The Bar-Kays are my joy

Did I really just find a new track by The Bar-Kays?! I did? Pinch me! I have a special place in my heart for this legendary Memphis band. Starting their run in the mid 60’s backing Otis Redding and other GR8 singers on Stax Records, the Bar-Kays ultimately influenced the evolution of soul, R&B, funk and rock and roll music, while overcoming some unimaginable tragedies along the way. This recent single is true to form, with that easy solid groove, luscious keyboards, and rapturous horn lines and vocals that put them at the top of the charts repeatedly – and as a footnote, won them a spot in the Rock and Roll hall of fame. This song has everything that is missing from the hyper-commercial pap of today. Sincerity and talent, to begin with. What a sweet lyric, and the rap bridge in the middle works perfectly. This music makes me smile.

The Barkays
“You’re My Joy” (download mp3)
from “The Real Thing”
“You’re My Joy” (play)

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Santogold shines brighter and brighter

Brooklyn’s Santogold continues her massive roll in 2009. Here is one of the tracks that propelled her to international recognition in ’08. This is not an artist locked in any genre set. Instead, she hits genres head-on like a bowling ball, sending the pins flying every which way. “L.E.S Artistes” is a gem, with Santogold’s voice floating luminescent over tracks that will sound bright and new even years down the road.

“L.E.S Artistes” (download mp3)
from “Santogold”
(Lizard King)
L.E.S. Artistes (play)

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Heavyweight Dub Champion feat. Dr Israel sees the Dawn

Heavy Weight Dub Champion – “Dawn feat. Dr Israel”

I love the way Jamaican and American popular musics have informed and influenced each other over the decades. Going back to the early 1960s when ska bands built on stateside soul and R&B sounds, and fast-forward to hip-hop and dancehall styles trading ideas and themes at a dizzying pace.  Heavyweight Dub Champion is hip-hop, and dancehall, and electronic dance, and reggae, they are all of that, and yes they bring their own original flavor to the mix as well. This track really cooks.

Heavyweight Dub Champion
“Dawn (feat. Dr. Isreal)” (mp3)
from “Rise of the Champion Nation”
(Champion Nation Recordings)

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